The Buffalo Bills welcome head coach Brian Daboll and the New York Giants to Orchard Park, NY for a Week 6 Sunday Night Football showdown. It’s homecoming weekend for Daboll, who was raised in suburban West Seneca in Buffalo, NY. Prior to his appointment with the Giants, Daboll was of course Buffalo’s offensive coordinator, and he played a key role in quarterback Josh Allen’s development during the QB’s formative years in the NFL.
There’s certain to be plenty of laughs, and fond memories to catch up on between Daboll and the Buffalo Bills. Having worked closely with so many players and coaches at One Bills Drive, this game has special meaning to each side, but especially Daboll, Allen, and head coach Sean McDermott.
The list of former Bills who are current Giants is lengthy, with defensive end Boogie Basham, quarterback Tyrod Taylor, wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins, running back Matt Breida, and cornerback Nick McCloud all joining Daboll in the New York Metropolitan area.
The Bills entered Week 1 of this season flying a bit under the radar, and fell further off the map after losing in Week 1 to the New York Jets. The next three games Buffalo looked like a completely different team, led by an altogether different, deadly efficient Josh Allen. From a yesterday’s news, whose window was closing, to among the best in the NFL — all in the month of September.
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs continues to play out of his mind, with four consecutive 100-yard games since Week 2. Through five games, Diggs has caught 39 passes for 520 yards with five touchdowns. Allen and he are a near-unstoppable force. Against the Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars, Allen found tough sledding against odd defensive fronts, that is units primarily operating out of a 3-4 alignment. Where Allen had found success underneath, allowing his receives to gain yards after the catch, the Jets and Jacksonville proved adept at limiting damage after each reception.
The biggest story coming out of One Bills Drive had been the dominant play of the defense — a unit that’s been far more aggressive (especially up front) under the guidance of McDermott. Defensive tackles Ed Oliver and DaQuan Jones have been nearly unstoppable up front. Likewise for defensive end/edge rushers Greg Rousseau, Leonard Floyd, and A.J. Epenesa.
But now, most news about the Buffalo Bills centers around the alarming number of injuries, especially on defense. The Bills will proceed without Jones, who suffered a pectoral injury in London, was placed on Injured Reserve (IR), and reportedly had surgery on Wednesday. Joining Jones on IR is All-Pro linebacker Matt Milano, who suffered a serious leg injury a handful of snaps before Jones went down. To make matters worse, the team had already placed their top cornerback, Tre’Davious White, on season-ending IR following an Achilles injury. That’s three key players at each level of defense. And we haven’t even discussed the team’s first injury report of the week (click here if you’re interested in the horror genre).
The Giants were a surprising playoff team in 2022, Daboll’s first season as head coach. Led by a scrappy, never-say-die quarterback in Daniel Jones and an all-world running back in Saquon Barkley, the Giants finished 9-7-1 and in third place in the NFC East last season. Following the team’s encouraging play in 2022, Daniel Jones received a new four-year, $160 million contract that included a $36 million signing bonus and $92 million guaranteed — with an average annual salary of $40 million per season. While Jones was paid, Saquon Barkley received the franchise tag, and reported to training camp with just a one-year deal.
But the Giants had roster concerns besides Jones and Barkley, and things haven’t gone as well for Daboll in year two. Their offensive line is a mess, to say the least. If the current pace at which the unit has given up pressure continues, the Giants will finish the 2023 season at well over 300 pressures surrendered by the o-line. Losing offensive tackle Andrew Thomas in Week 1 certainly didn’t help matters, and now the team’s O-line depth has endured injury, with backups to the backups seeing game snaps.
At 1-4, the Giants already look like a team self-imploding. There’s little belief the team can meaningfully evaluate Jones’ play behind a line that looks like it’s made up of guys new to the sport of football. Daniel Jones has been sacked 30 times already this season — a pace that would shatter the record held by David Carr (76) if maintained. Yikes. With all those hits, health is the biggest immediate concern for Jones, who’s now dealing with a neck injury that may keep him out Sunday night.
Making matters worse for the line and for Jones is a lack of game-changing receivers. Tight end Darren Waller is the Giants’ leading receiver with 23 catches for 239 yards — and his outlook for Sunday Night Football is murky with news this week of an injury. Hopefully, the G-Men can get Saquon Barkley back on the gridiron this weekend. He’s been sidelined in recent weeks with an ankle injury, but has found limited participation in practice early during the week.
Ultimately, the Buffalo Bills have a ton of talent, including among their reserves. Injuries are one of the key reasons roster building is so important, and Las Vegas seems to believe general manager Brandon Beane and front office has done well in adding layers of talent at each position. Likewise, it appears bettors are far less confident in the way the Giants’ roster has been constructed. As of this writing, the Bills are currently 14-point favorites to win Sunday night.
This will be the 14th meeting all-time (including Super Bowl XXV) between the two franchises, with the series tied at 7-7. Sunday night marks the first time since 2019 the two teams face off — making it Jones’ first game against McDermott (should he play). With the amount of long-term and in-week injuries between the Bills and Giants, it’s possible this game plays out much differently than schedule makers originally planned for. It’s said that any team can win on any given day, but it’s advisable to choose your bets on the Giants carefully this weekend.